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Laura Chinchilla
Laura 4.jpg
46th President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 2010 – 8 May 2014
Vice President Alfio Piva
Luis Liberman
Preceded by Óscar Arias
Succeeded by Luis Guillermo Solís
First-Vice President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 2006 – 8 October 2008
President Óscar Arias
Preceded by Lineth Saborío Chaverri
Succeeded by Alfio Piva
President pro tempore of CELAC
In office
28 January 2014 – 8 May 2014
Preceded by Raúl Castro
Succeeded by Luis Guillermo Solís
Minister of Justice and Grace
In office
8 May 2006 – 8 October 2008
President Óscar Arias
Preceded by Patricia Vega Herrera
Succeeded by Viviana Martín Salazar
Minister of Public Security
In office
30 March 2008 – 14 April 2008
President Óscar Arias
Preceded by Fernando Berrocal Soto
Succeeded by Janina del Vecchio Ugalde
In office
12 November 1996 – 8 May 1998
President José María Figueres
Preceded by Bernardo Arce Gutiérrez
Succeeded by Juan Rafael Lizano Sáenz
Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica
In office
1 May 2002 – 30 April 2006
Preceded by Guido Monge Fernández
Succeeded by Evita Arguedas Maklouf
Constituency San José (13th Office)
Vice Minister of Public Security
In office
8 May 1994 – 12 November 1996
President José María Figueres
Succeeded by Óscar Albán Chipsen
Personal details
Laura Chinchilla Miranda

(1959-03-28) 28 March 1959 (age 65)
San José, Costa Rica
Political party National Liberation Party
  • Mario Alberto Madrigal Díaz
    (m. 1982; div. 1985)
  • (m. 2000; died 2019)
Children 1
Alma mater

Laura Chinchilla Miranda (Spanish: [ˈlawɾa tʃinˈtʃiʝa miˈɾanda]; born 28 March 1959) is a Costa Rican political scientist and politician who served as President of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014. She was one of Óscar Arias Sánchez's two Vice-Presidents and his administration's Minister of Justice. She was the governing PLN candidate for president in the 2010 general election, where she won with 46.76% of the vote on 7 February. She was the eighth woman president of a Latin American country and the first woman to become President of Costa Rica. She was sworn in as President of Costa Rica on 8 May 2010.

After leaving office, she taught at Georgetown University in 2016. Chinchilla is co-chair of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank and the vice-president of Club de Madrid. Chinchilla previously served as a Fellow at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Early life

Laura Chinchilla was born in the Desamparados district of San José, the oldest child of her family with three younger brothers. Her father is Rafael Ángel Chinchilla Fallas, who served as comptroller of Costa Rica from 1972 to 1987, and maintained general popularity among the public. Her mother is Emilce Miranda Castillo. She attended the University of Costa Rica where she obtained a degree in political science, and she then attended Georgetown University in the United States for a master's degree in public policy. She then returned to Costa Rica to work as a policy consultant for security and judicial reform.

Chinchilla married Mario Alberto Madrigal Díaz on 23 January 1982. They divorced on 22 May 1985. Chinchilla met her second husband, José María Rico Cueto, a Spanish lawyer who held Canadian citizenship, in 1990 while both were working as consultants for the Center for the Administration of Justice at the Florida International University in Miami, Florida. The couple had a son, José María Rico Chinchilla, in 1996. Chinchilla married Rico on 26 March 2000. Chinchilla's marital history and the child she had out of wedlock did not significantly affect her political life—despite the country's significant Catholic population—due to a culture in Costa Rican politics of avoiding personal attacks.

Chinchilla became the Vice Minister of Public Security under President José María Figueres. Figueres then appointed her Minister of Public Security, and she became the first woman to hold the position. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica in 2002. Chinchilla became the First Vice President of Costa Rica in 2006, also taking the position of Minister of Justice and Peace. She held these positions until 2008, when she resigned to run for President of Costa Rica in the 2010 general election.

2010 presidential campaign

Chinchilla's presidential campaign was unexpected, as she was not a prominent member of her political party, the National Liberation Party, and she had previously given little indication of an interest in the presidency. Commentators have credited President Óscar Arias with mentoring her for the presidency. During her campaign, she benefited from an image that she was an outsider while still representing political continuity from Arias's administration. Chinchilla's opponents accused her of being "a puppet of Arias", with one campaign advertisement depicting her as a marionette in his hands. She and her allies criticized double standards related to her gender, such as an increased focus on her wardrobe and suggestions that she was weaker.

Chinchilla campaigned on the issues of social welfare, economic competitiveness, environmental protection, and domestic security. She used the slogan firme y honesta (firm and honest), suggesting both a strong criminal policy and an anti-corruption platform, both of which were significant priorities for the public. She did not explicitly campaign on women's issues so as not to alienate voters, instead promoting issues that benefited families. Major campaign promises included the construction of 20,000 low-income housing units, a reduction of the unemployment rate from 7.8% to 5.0%, and switching the nation to 95% renewable resources. She also spoke of improving infrastructure, child care, and law enforcement.

In the National Liberation Party's primary election, Chinchilla won with a 15% margin over the runner up, in part due to Arias's endorsement of her candidacy. During the general election, Chinchilla's main opponents were Ottón Solís of the Citizens' Action Party and Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement. She won with approximately 47% of the vote, with Solís and Guevara splitting much of the rest between them. Chinchilla had stronger support among women and the elderly. Her personality, her campaign strategy, and her womanhood were all represented as reasons for support in voter surveys. Despite this, Chinchilla did not emphasize her gender during her campaign, instead campaigning on ideas of the traditional family.

President of Costa Rica

Political capital

Chinchilla took office with the National Liberation Party holding 24 of the Legislative Assembly's 57 seats, giving her party a plurality. It attempted to reelect Luis Gerardo Villanueva as the assembly's president in violation of procedure, resulting in Juan Carlos Mendoza García of the Citizen's Action Party taking the position. Chinchilla had a mixed relationship with the legislature, feuding with both the opposition and with members of her own party. Political researcher Constantino Urcuyo estimated that only 12 members of the legislature were allied with her. One year into her term, Chinchilla rejected Mendoza's proposal to raise congressional pay, causing the coalition government to break down.

Chinchilla did not have a strong political base among her constituents while president, even from voters within her own party. Much of her political capital was contingent on her association with Arias. When she diverged from his policy positions, she lost his backing as well as that of his supporters.

Chinchilla's leadership was challenged in 2011 when Arias's brother, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, announced his candidacy for president in the 2014 general election. Making such an announcement shortly after Chinchilla took office was seen as a criticism of her leadership. This dispute caused legislators in the National Liberation Party to split into factions, with Arias supporters demanding changes in Chinchilla's administration.

Isla Calero

In 2010, the military of Nicaragua occupied the uninhabited Isla Calero, a disputed territory between the two nations. Chinchilla responded by writing a criticism of the action in the Miami Herald and seeking adjudication from the International Court of Justice. The court ordered both nations to evacuate the island in March 2011, and her response to the incident is often considered a high point of her presidency.

By mid-2011, President Chinchilla decided to build a 160 kilometer gravel road along the river, as a response to what she and her government saw as a Nicaraguan invasion of Costa Rican territory. The road was officially named “Ruta 1858, Juan Rafael Mora Porras” to honor a Costa Rican hero in a show of national pride.

The road was to stretch more than 150 km. A decree of emergency allowed the government to waive environmental regulations and oversight from the General Comptroller (Contraloria General de la Republica). Neither environmental nor engineering studies were conducted before the road was announced. There were accusations of mismanagement and corruption. The Ministerio Publico (Costa Rican attorney general) announced an official inquiry about the charges of corruption. Francisco Jiménez, minister of public works and transportation, was dismissed by Chinchilla as a consequence of the affair.


Chinchilla appointed 42 cabinet ministers during her presidency, and she kept several ministers from the Arias presidency. Her selection of ministers emphasized technocratic and academic experience, though the appointment of Minister of Planning Laura Alfaro was seen as a personal gesture. Minister of Public Works and Transportation Francisco Jiménez was relieved from his position due to scandal. Chinchilla elevated the National Institute of Women to cabinet level status.

The following were members of Chinchilla's presidential cabinet. Names marked with an asterisk (*) also held the position during Arias's presidency.

Portfolio Minister Took office Left office
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Gloria Abraham Peralta May 2010 May 2014
Minister of Telecommunications, Energy and Environment Teófilo de la Torre May 2010 August 2012
René Castro August 2012 May 2014
Minister of Social Well Being and Family Fernando Marín May 2012 May 2014
Minister of Culture and Youth Manuel Obregón May 2010 May 2014
Minister of Decentralization & Local Governments Juan Marín May 2012 June 2013
Minister of Economy, Industry & Trade Mayi Antillón May 2010 May 2014
Minister of Education Leonardo Garnier* May 2010 May 2014
Minister of Finance Fernando Herrero May 2010 May 2012
Edgar Ayales Esna May 2012 May 2014
Minister of Foreign Affairs René Castro May 2010 July 2011
Carlos Roverssi July 2011 September 2011
José Enrique Castillo September 2011 May 2014
Minister of Foreign Trade Anabel González May 2010 May 2014
Minister of Health María Luisa Ávila* May 2010 August 2011
Daisy María Corrales Díaz August 2011 May 2014
Minister of Housing Irene Campos Gómez May 2010 October 2012
Guido Alberto Monage Fernández December 2012 May 2014
Minister of Justice and Peace Hernando París* May 2010 May 2012
Fernando Ferraro Castro May 2012 June 2013
José Enrique Castillo June 2013 May 2014
Minister of Labor and Social Security Sandra Piszk May 2010 October 2012
Olman Segura October 2012 May 2014
Minister of Planning and Economic Policy Laura Alfaro May 2010 March 2011
Roberto Gallardo Núñez* March 2011 May 2014
Minister of the Presidency Marco Vargas May 2010 April 2011
Carlos Ricardo Benavides April 2011 May 2014
Minister of Public Security José María Tijerino Pacheco May 2010 April 2011
Mario Zamora Cordero May 2011 May 2014
Minister of Public Works and Transportation Francisco Jiménez May 2010 May 2012
Luis Llach Cordero June 2012 September 2012
Pedro Castro Fernández September 2012 May 2014
Minister of Science and Technology Clotilde Fonseca May 2010 February 2011
Alejandro Cruz Molina February 2011 March 2014
Minister of Sports Guiselle Goyenaga May 2010 February 2011
Carlos Ricardo Benavides* February 2011 May 2011
William Todd McSam May 2011 April 2012
Manuel Obregon López May 2012 June 2012
William Corrales December 2012 May 2014
Minister of Tourism Carlos Ricardo Benavides May 2010 April 2011
Allen Flores April 2011 March 2014

Policies and political views

Chinchilla's politics have been described as centre-right, and she is considered a social conservative.


At the time of Chinchilla's inauguration, the Great Recession had caused Costa Rica's economy to decline, and recovery from the recession took place during her term. GDP growth reached 5% at its highest point while she was president, while overall poverty and unemployment increased.

Chinchilla was expected to give continuity to the previous government's pro-free trade policies. She signed free trade agreements with China and Singapore, but the deals were not completed. Chinchilla also began the process of incorporating Costa Rica into the OECD.

Chinchilla increased taxes on corporations and allocated the funds to security.


Chinchilla was a supporter of environmentalist policies while she was president. During her campaign, she declared her intention to see Costa Rica be carbon neutral by 2021. In 2011, she implemented Costa Rica's second moratorium on petroleum exploitation, which was later extended. To do so, she cited the constitution's guarantee of a right to a health environment. Costa Rica only had limited petroleum operations, but the move was met with extended legal challenges from energy companies.

The government sustainability variable was displayed by Chinchilla promoting policies for the generation of clean energy which exceeded 90% of electricity generation from renewable sources, at the end of her term. Equal importance was given to the protection of the seas, through Chinchilla's extension of marine protection zones and a strong fight against shark finning, this led to international recognition for her efforts made towards sustainability.

One of Chinchilla's first actions upon taking office was to restore a ban on open-pit gold mining, which had been a subject of controversy in Arias's presidency.


Education became one Chinchilla's greatest priorities. She moved into action Article 78 of Costa Rica’s Constitution, The Strengthening Education Effort, whereby the government must allocate 8% of its funding toward education.[1] During her tenure the actual figure reached 7.2%, the highest of any country in the region.[2]

Chinchilla continued the Avancemos program that Arias had established in 2006 to give financial support to families in extreme poverty as their children progress in school.

Foreign relations

After leaving office, Chinchilla joined Arias and other Latin American figures in a joint statement supporting the Cuban thaw and demanding democracy in Cuba.

Social issues

One of Chinchilla's main programs as president was Red de Cuido (Network of Care), which funded child care and elderly care. It was first established after she took office in 2010, having spoken about it extensively during her campaign. The program involved many organizations, such as the Joint Social Welfare Institute, CEN-CINAI PANI, local governments, community NGOs, and churches. The program was expanded in May 2014 when Chinchilla signed the National Network of Care into law, creating the Technical Secretariat of the Network of Care. 852 new care sites had been built through the program during Chinchilla's presidency. This program was recognized by international organizations.

Chinchilla opposed separation of church and state in Costa Rica, wishing to retain its status as a Roman Catholic nation.

..... She also opposed in vitro fertilisation, but she legalized it in April 2013 following an order from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Chinchilla personally opposed same-sex marriage as president, but she agreed to sign bill that made it legal. The law was later rejected as invalid by the courts.


Chinchilla led the Observation Mission deployed by the OAS to Mexico to observe the June 2015 federal election, as well as the Observation Electoral Mission during the 2016 elections in the US, and the electoral process in Brazil and in Paraguay in 2018.

Chinchilla currently teaches at Georgetown University at the Institute of Politics and Public Service and is also the titular of the Cathedra José Bonifácio, at the University of São Paulo, since 2018, and leads the Latin American Chair of Citizenship in the School of Government and Public Transformation of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

Since 2016, Chinchilla has been serving as the president of the Advisory Council of She Works, a company focused on the empowerment of women; and is also a rapporteur for the freedom of expression of the Telecommunications Organization of Latin America.

Chinchilla was widowed on 15 April 2019, when her husband died of Alzheimer's.

In 2019, Chinchilla served on the advisory board of the annual Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), co-chaired by Thomas Piketty and Tharman Shanmugaratnam. In 2020, she was Costa Rica's candidate to head the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank. Shortly before the vote, she dropped her bid, arguing that the process favored U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee Mauricio Claver-Carone.

In addition, Chinchilla holds numerous other positions, including the following:

  • International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Member of the Board of Advisers (since 2020)
  • Atlantic Council, Member of the Advisory Council to the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center
  • Club of Madrid, Vice-President
  • Concordia Summit, Member of the Board
  • Council of Women World Leaders, Member
  • Inter-American Dialogue, Member of the Board of Directors Co-Chair (since 2019)
  • International Olympic Committee, Member (since 2019)
  • Kofi Annan Foundation, Co-Chair of the Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age (since 2019)

Awards and recognition

Laura Chinchilla cropped
Laura Chinchilla in 2010

Chinchilla was awarded with the “Women of the Decade in Public Life and Leadership Award” at the Women Economic Forum in Amsterdam. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the University for Peace of the United Nations, Georgetown University, and Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Laura Chinchilla para niños

  • Politics of Costa Rica
  • Religion in Costa Rica
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